Huntsville, Alabama is a dichotomy of the past and present colliding to make a fascinating city to visit. Being named one of the Smartest Cities in the World by Forbes.com in 2016, Huntsville has NASA to thank for the award. This town is home to the U.S. Redstone Arsenal and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center where they test the deep space rockets that will be launching in 2019. Even with all the technology needed to build and test the rockets, Huntsville is also steeped in history that goes back before the Civil War. During the war, Huntsville was occupied by the Union thus preserving the largest collection of antebellum homes in the South. Space nerds, history buffs and everyone in between will love this town and all it has to offer.
If you are planning a trip to Huntsville, solo or with a family, definitely check out these six interesting places to visit.
- Constitution Village – This is a living history museum where people dress in period outfits and show visitors what it was like to live and work back in 1819. Several school children were visiting and participating in the activities throughout the village. A couple of workers mentioned that I could hop into one of the tours to experience everything with them. I love the southern hospitality here!
- Twickenham Historic Homes – I did a self-walking tour after I picked up a map of the downtown Historic homes which you can get at the Visitors Center at 500 Church Street. I wandered around looking at these gorgeous homes. They remind me of Gone with the Wind mansions with their columns and wrap around porches. Ingleside House built in 1888 is my particular favorite. I love the porch and the round turret. I could see myself living here drinking sweet tea rocking on my porch swing.Most of the historic homes are well maintained with manicured lawns but, I did see one that seems to be on the neglected side. The Grove-Bassett House built in 1818 appears to have run into hard times. With nobody living here at the moment except the plant life.
- Big Spring Park – This park is the center of Huntsville’s history. The lake is the same water source that settlers found over 200 years ago and built the city of Huntsville around it. This is a beautiful park to take a break while walking in the downtown area and is right next to the Von Braun Convention Center. I was fascinated by the Muscovy ducks along the Big Spring Lake. At first, I thought they looked like turkeys and then upon closer inspection, I realized that they were ducks. These ducks are native to the south so, being from Michigan, I am pleasantly surprised by this find. I can’t tell if he is guarding the fish or waiting to pounce. What do you think?
Huntsville’s Side Detour
- Unclaimed Baggage – This facility isn’t exactly in Huntsville but, it’s only a quick 40-minute drive to Scottsboro. I had never heard of Unclaimed Baggage so, I had no expectations when I walked through the doors. Did you know?…Airlines and Airports have 90 days to find and return lost or unclaimed luggage to its owner. If they don’t, it gets sent to Unclaimed Baggage. They dry clean the clothes and put all electronics back to the manufacturing settings which allows them to sell everything at a deep discount. I was able to pick up a Samsung Galaxy S6 in excellent condition and a Fitbit Flex for an amazingly low price. This place is unbelievable. I saw bikes, kayaks, fishing equipment, pots & pans, and every gadget imaginable for sale. Each day there are thousands of new items coming in so, you will never know what you will find here. Well worth a short hop to visit!
- Marshall Space Flight Center – You can sign up for a bus tour at the US Space & Rocket Center. The bus will drive by the National Landmark of the Redstone test site of the Saturn rockets. At the Payload Operation Center, you will see the people who talk directly with the astronauts in the International Space Station. This was a very informative tour of the history of the Saturn V rocket. And how the Marshall Space Flight Center came to be in Huntsville. This was the one place where you had airports, trains, and rivers to be able to transport all the rocket components here to be assembled. We had a lovely tour guide that kept us in stitches with all the stories from Marshall. Note: You need to be a U.S. Citizen to participate in this tour.
- US Space & Rocket Center – The perfect place to visit for space nerds. This museum has an enormous amount of ground covered in space history. You can see the full-stack Pathfinder Shuttle sitting on rocket boosters. You feel so small next to the shuttle that is life size. Also, looking in any direction around the grounds you will see several single rockets of varying sizes. The gift shop in the museum showcases the first airplane built in Alabama; unfortunately, it was after the Wright brothers made theirs. A little late but, still impressive! The sheer size of the Saturn V rocket is overwhelming. Walking underneath it, you can imagine the amount of engineering it took to get this massive structure out into space. All around the museum you can also interact with the timeline of the U.S. space program’s race to the moon. And don’t forget that this is also home to Space Camp. You are never too old!
For a weekend visit or a longer stay, there is plenty to keep you entertained here. I had a fantastic time checking out all these places to visit in Huntsville. Have you been to Huntsville, Alabama? What are your top places to visit here?